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EDITORIAL

Bigoted balloting

NEITHER anti-gay activists, who initiated a petition for a referendum to constitutionally define the concept of family, nor LGBTI rights advocates, who called the initiative an attempt to curb minority rights, are happy with the recent ruling of the Constitutional Court. The judges ruled that three of the four proposed ballot initiatives could go forward, clearing a path for referenda on the definition of marriage, child adoption by same-sex couples and sexual education in schools, but blocking a question about registered partnerships having the same rights as marriage.

NEITHER anti-gay activists, who initiated a petition for a referendum to constitutionally define the concept of family, nor LGBTI rights advocates, who called the initiative an attempt to curb minority rights, are happy with the recent ruling of the Constitutional Court. The judges ruled that three of the four proposed ballot initiatives could go forward, clearing a path for referenda on the definition of marriage, child adoption by same-sex couples and sexual education in schools, but blocking a question about registered partnerships having the same rights as marriage.

In a modern society where minorities aren’t pushed to the outskirts of their own homeland, a petition seeking a referendum over issues involving minority rights should not be initiated at all. Yet in Slovakia more than 400,000 people signed the sheets obviously encouraged by politicians who have cynically picked up the conservative agenda – even when it was incompatible with the ideology of their party – out of pure political calculation.

This is how a peculiar marriage between the populist ruling Smer, which declares itself a social democratic party, and the conservative Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) was sealed earlier this year. That alliance gave birth to an earlier revision to the country’s constitution, which now defines marriage as a “unique bond between a man and a woman”, a move which already throws Slovakia back a couple decades on the road to becoming an open and minority friendly society.

The initiator of the petition, the Alliance for Family, an association sheltering more than 100 pro-life and traditional-value oriented groups, staged a rather peculiar protest in response to the Constitutional Court’s ruling: they sealed their mouth with red tape and declared that “decent people” are being prevented from talking about what family really is.

Well, it is the other way around.

In times when public figures, artists, business and sports people are openly talking about their sexuality, for example today (October 30) Apple CEO Tim Cook said he was proud to be a gay with all relevant world media covering the event, in Slovakia the popular public discourse is largely tuned to discouraging people who live outside traditionally defined family arrangements to openly talk about whom they love.

What really endangers family in Slovakia aren’t gays or people living in different ways, but alienation, poverty, apathy towards public issues, and people who deny science and would happily replace reason with campaign-induced mass hysteria.

Why aren’t those 400,000 people calling for a referendum on global warming, corruption or the influence of oligarchs in a society where if the rule of law would work as it should, they would be sitting in prison? Why aren’t parents concerned about their kids not getting the best education at schools to support their talents but worry that they would be more enlightened and less prone to homophobia?

Should it indeed go forward, the referendum on “family protection” would cost €5.2 million in times when the government radically cut, for example, the budget of the Slovak Academy of Sciences. Of course, even if it is a massive waste of money, the country would be still better off if the referendum is voided by lack of turnout, as has happened with most previous referendums in Slovakia.

The country definitely has a rather troubled history of using referenda as one of the democratic tools, something much more common in a place like Switzerland for example. In this part of the world, voters were not even consulted when the very existence of the nation was in question, leading to the split of former Czechoslovakia and the birth of Slovakia. But plenty of public money was wasted on a referendum used as publicity gimmick by a political party, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), which is now on the edge of oblivion.

One thing is certain though: those 400,000 people who signed the petition and the Alliance for Family would not feel safer and happier even if all the definitions they requested made it into the Constitution. This is simply because the source of their fears and frustrations cannot be fixed and removed by legislation, only education.

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